Black scholarship matters

The Journal of Political Philosophy just published a symposium on Black Lives Matter, which initially sounds like a great idea.  However, Chris Lebron writes (in an open letter to the journal):

So, if you might – please do – try to imagine my distaste when it was brought to my attention that your journal published a philosophical symposium on ‘black lives matter’ with not one philosopher of color represented, without one philosopher of color to convey her or his contextualized sense of a movement that is urgently and justifiably about context.

Melvin Rogers has also written to the journal:


I do not typically claim that persons of color have an intellectual monopoly on issues affecting their life chances, but given the meaning and purpose of the movement it seems especially egregious that a person of color was not included.

So I write to find out how it is that these group of papers, only one of which mentions Black Lives Matter, came to be classified under a heading titled Symposium on “Black Lives Matter”? This question is especially important since I have now come to understand that the authors did not know they would be classified as such.

They have already made an initial reply:

Thank you for taking the time to write to us, I really do appreciate
it and am concerned about the issues you raise. I cannot say anything
on behalf of the journal before I have had a chance to talk to the
other editors (all of whom are unavailable for the next while because
they are in Australia or in transit to Europe). For my part I am also
going to need to think about this (and how to learn from it). So I
will be in touch again more fully as soon as I can, but didn’t want
your email to sit long without a response.

I very much urge you to read the whole of both open letters, linked to above.  They lay out with beautiful clarity just why the composition of the symposium is a problem, and correct some widespread misunderstandings of this kind of criticisms.

[What seems to have happened, as far as I understand it, is that a conference was held on political violence.  This conference had much better demographics than the symposium.  A decision was made to do a symposium based on the conference, and all participants were invited to submit.  The only ones who did were white.  Neither the authors nor the conference organiser had any idea that this would be called a Black Lives Matter symposium.  This decision seems to have been wholly made by the journal.]

Review of Kipnis

A review that takes into account the recent lawsuit.

Initially, I came away from Unwanted Advancespersuaded, as Kipnis clearly is, that the charges against Ludlow fall apart under scrutiny. Yet Kipnis is so sympathetic to Ludlow, and so contemptuous of his accusers, that even before the lawsuit, I wasn’t always sure I could trust her. There are holes in the story of the woman who says Ludlow forced alcohol on her. But Kipnis is skeptical of the whole idea that an older man might deliberately get a younger woman trashed so he can take advantage of her. “Let me interject a brief reality check: single non-hideous men with good jobs (or, in this case, an international reputation and not without charm) don’t have to work that hard to get women to go to bed with them in our century,” she writes. Well, let me interject a brief reality check: Bill Cosby.


Great Teaching Resource: The Deviant Philosopher

There’s a wonderful new teaching resource out– The Deviant Philosopher!


We at The Deviant Philosopher decided that it was time to do something to about the difficulties associated with diversifying our curriculum, recognizing that there is great value in the end goal. We think we can make it a little bit easier and a little bit less hazardous by collecting and sharing some new teaching resources. And so, we created The Deviant Philosopher. Our mission is:

  • To create quality teaching resources on diverse non-canonical philosophical traditions and perspectives
  • To promote meaningful engagement with the philosophical traditions and perspectives we’re representing

The Deviant Philosopher provides users with four kinds of materials: area primers, unit plans, lesson plans, and class activities. Primers are toolkits designed to help an instructor who is new to a subject area get acquainted with it. Unit planslesson plans, and class activities are teaching plans suitable for various time periods within a course, ranging from a single discussion to full units of study. Instructors can draw from these to suit their own time constraints and emphases. Each item contains suggestions about how to integrate the material into a variety of philosophy courses.

The Deviant Philosopher development team is Wayne Riggs, Amy Olberding, Kelly Epley, and Seth Robinson.


Check it out and get deviating!

Lawsuit against Laura Kipnis

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa, who has consistently been a wonderful source of insightful reflection on Laura Kipnis’s book, as posted today that she is being sued.  He writes:

I have just learned that the graduate student Laura Kipnis discusses at length in Unwanted Advances has sued both Kipnis and the book’s publisher, Harper Collins. She’s suing for public disclosure of private facts, false light invasion of privacy, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

As I mentioned in a comment in a recent post here, I do believe that Kipnis dramatically misrepresented the student in dishonest and harmful ways. I am not surprised that there is a lawsuit alleging this. All of my blogging so far has bracketed those issues, since getting into the details of the misrepresentations would involve further violations of privacy. I have been trying to make the case that even if the specific evidence she cites is correct, her case is both uncompeling and harmful. But since Jane Doe vs. Harper Collins and Laura Kipnis is now public, some of Doe’s specific complaints can now be discussed. (Many commenters have expressed frustration with people saying that the book is inaccurate without saying how. They may now be in a position to relieve some of their curiosity.)

You can read the whole thing here.  Jonathan writes on Facebook:

I have the utmost respect for Jane Doe, a brave Northwestern Philosophy PhD student who has, I am convinced, been seriously wronged and harmed by Laura Kipnis’s book, Unwanted Advances.

Doe is suing both author and publisher. Lawsuits are ugly things and tough times are certainly ahead. In my opinion, she deserves our full support. Having read the lawsuit and the book (and also having some relevant nonpublic knowledge), it is my opinion that she deserves to win.


Descartes’ most important influence

The 17th century thinker René Descartes is seen as the father of modern philosophy: A man who was entirely original, whose work marked a clear divide from earlier thinkers, and who laid the foundation for modern thought with his focus on self-knowledge of the individual mind.

But that narrative is “unquestionably false,” says Christia Mercer, a philosophy professor at Columbia University. Indeed, “people in his period did not think Descartes was the father of anything,” she adds. Though the philosopher was renowned in his day for his work on physics and natural philosophy, it wasn’t until the 19th century that historians portrayed Descartes as a major break with the past. This idea has endured in part because, while historians searched for the great male thinkers who might have influenced Descartes’ ideas, they missed the female philosopher who came before him: Teresa of Ávila.

Read on.

Support Tommy Curry

Do consider signing this letter in support of philosopher Tommy Curry. His claim– that it would be good to *study* the history of black advocacy of anti-white violence– has been grotesquely misrepresented. As a result he is getting death threats and the head of his university has spoken against him.

[Although the letter was initially written for members of his University to sign, they are welcoming signatures from others.]

The letter is here.

Retroactive withdrawal of consent?

Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa continues his excellent, thoughtful series on the new Kipnis book with a discussion of nonconsensual sex.

Kipnis often describes sexual assault allegations in these terms. She says that there was a consensual sexual encounter, and then, months or years later, someone “retroactively withdraws” consent, converting what had previously been a permissible sexual encounter into an assault. Her language suggests a kind of “backwards causation”—one can reach back into history and create rapes that weren’t there by removing the consent. The implication: this absurd metaphysics is being embraced by campus activists, demonstrating both their intellectual depravity and their danger.

But why is Kipnis so confident that, in these cases, there was consent in the first place? After all, there is such a thing as a nonconsensual sexual encounter where the victim doesn’t think of it as such at the time, or doesn’t decide to report it at the time. There is such a thing as being coerced, manipulated, or bullied into a sexual relationship. When this happens, one is quite likely to keep quiet about it at first, either for fear of repercussions, or out of failure to understand what has happened.

There is no liberal right to sex with students

There is a long and distinguished history of conceptualising liberal democracy in terms of basic rights to which, all other things being equal, everyone is entitled. Sexual freedom is rightly counted among these. But should this right apply where one person is in a position of power and authority over the other? Doctors are sanctioned if they have sex with their patients, as are lawyers who sleep with their clients. Should sexual relationships between professors and students in the same department also be off limits?

Read on.